Jonah Rylee Smith – September, 2012

Water safety at the forefront in wake of tragedy

Updated: Wednesday, 26 Sep 2012, 8:38 AM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 25 Sep 2012, 5:57 PM EDT

KETTERING, Ohio (WDTN) – The Warren County Coroner’s office confirmed Jonah Smith, 4, drowned in a lake after wandering from his Franklin Township home Monday.

Jonah’s body was found lifeless in the water about 100 yards from his home on Cam Drive, officials said.  His father reported him missing just before 1 p.m.  Officials found the boy deceased in the water just before 2:30 p.m.

This tragedy has brought up the subject of children and water safety.

Research shows drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among children ages 1 to 4.  Local experts said kids as young as 6 months old can be taught to float and survive in the water.

2 NEWS visited the YMCA in Kettering to talk with swimming instructors and parents about the importance of teaching water safety to children.

“We teach young children to swim on their stomach doing either a front paddle or back paddle,” said Charlie Raper, who is the Y’s Aquatic Director,  “We also teach them how to put their head under water, jump in the water and how to swim to the walls of the pool.”

Raper encourages parents to get their children in the water at a young age.

“We have a class for children who are 6 months old,” said Raper, “We go over skills such as kicking on your back and floating and overall we focus on familiarizing the child with the water.”

Raper said the first step is getting a child comfortable in the water.  Often a child’s first response is to panic when put in an unfamiliar situation.  That can lead to tragedy, confirms Raper.

Tina Franklin, of Kettering, enrolled her daughter, Alana,4, in swim lessons five months ago.

“She wasn’t comfortable in the water and I wanted her to improve,” said Franklin.

Courtney Lloyd said she has had her son, Carter, also 4, in swimming lessons since he was 2-years-old.

“It eases my tension knowing my children know how to swim,” said Lloyd.

Lloyd said she has gone over with her boys what they should do in the event they fall into the water and find themselves in a dangerous situation.”

“I told them if they fall in to not panic,” said Lloyd.  “I told them to immediately look for someone and the nearest edge.  I’ve also stressed the importance of floating.”

Its unclear how the child, Jonah Smith, wandered out of his home and ultimately ended up in the lake.  Officials said its also unclear if the 4-year-old knew how to swim, and if so, how much it would have helped in this particular situation.  The investigation is on-going.

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